Metro riders board a train in this file photo. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

For 3,000 Metro riders who agree to take part in a pilot program, the transit authority plans to offer a glimpse of the future, allowing them to board trains and buses with just the wave of a smartphone or plastic card in a six-month test of new fare-collection technology, the agency said.

“Near-field communication,” or NFC, it’s called.

Using a credit or debit card with an embedded NFC computer chip, or with an NFC-enabled smartphone, people are already able to make “contactless” purchases in some stores.

Now, Metro intends to bring the technology to the transit system, starting with the January-to-June test program.

In the first step of a multiyear, nearly $200 million revamping of Metro’s fare-collection system, one NFC fare gate will be installed in each of 10 rail stations, officials said, and new NFC fare receptacles will be added to 50 buses on six routes.

And, in a recruitment effort that is set to begin soon, Metro will enlist 3,000 volunteers to use the gates and receptacles for six months. The agency has not announced how it will go about recruiting participants.

Early this year, the technology company Accenture was awarded a $184 million contract for the long-term installation of NFC gates and receptacles throughout Metro’s subway and bus systems. In the pilot program, prototypes designed by the company will be put to the test.

“Before we commit to a systemwide rollout, Accenture needs to demonstrate to us that the technology works,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said. “They need to show us that in our environment, to our satisfaction, that the [NFC] fare transactions can be processed accurately and with appropriate speed.”

In another move that is part of overhauling the fare-collection system, Metro plans to eliminate the use of paper Farecards by rail passengers at the end of next year. About 500 fare-dispensing machines in the subway system will sell only SmarTrip cards.

NFC technology isn’t new to rapid-transit systems: It’s already in use in Chicago.

“And several transit agencies in Asia have been well ahead of us in implementing NFC, most notably Seoul and Hong Kong,” Stessel said.

In the Metrorail system, the test will be conducted at the Shady Grove, Eisenhower Avenue, Bethesda, Pentagon City, Pentagon, Ballston-MU, Gallery Place, Farragut West, Navy Yard and Suitland stations, Metro said.

In each station, one fare gate will replaced by a new gate that can be used only with NFC cards or devices.

Buses that are involved in the test will continue to have receptacles for cash and SmarTrip cards. But additional NFC receptacles will be installed in 50 buses on six routes: the 37 (Wisconsin Avenue Limited), the X9 (Benning Road-H Street Limited), the 39 (Pennsylvania Avenue Limited), the K9 (New Hampshire Avenue Limited), the J4 (College Park-Bethesda Limited) and the REX (Richmond Highway Express).

Also, NFC fee-collection machines will be installed for six months in the parking garages at Shady Grove and Suitland stations.

Some of the riders who participate in the test will need to have credit or debit cards with NFC chips or own NFC-enabled smartphones, Stessel said. Others will be given a test version of a new type of SmarTrip card containing an NFC chip.

Just by holding the card or phone within a few feet of the gate or receptacle — possibly without even removing it from a pocket or purse — a rider’s fare will be added to a credit card balance or deducted from a bank account.

“We absolutely want riders to feel safe and secure in using their bank cards or smartphones directly at the gate for fare payment,” Stessel said in an e-mail.

“Under this new program,” he added, “Metro will encrypt and tokenize all card data as we pass the fare transaction on to the card processors for payment.

“In other words, Metro will not retain payment card data and will utilize the best industry-standard security protocols to keep riders’ payment information secure,” he said.

If the technology works well in the pilot program, Stessel said in an interview, Accenture will begin building NFC fare gates and receptacles for the entire system: about 1,000 for rail stations and 1,500 for buses.

Installing them would take about two years, starting in 2017, he said.

Currently, credit and debit cards typically do not contain NFC chips, although banks will often issue them upon request. In moving toward NFC fare collection throughout the system, Stessel said, “the expectation is, by the time we get to 2017 or so, credit and debit cards that are contactless, and NFC-enabled phones, will be ubiquitous.”

By then, Metro SmarTrip cards also will contain NFC chips for use by riders who don’t have NFC-enabled phones or NFC credit or debit cards, Stessel said.

And buses, he added, will never stop accepting cash and coins.

“We recognize that there will always be some portion of that population that, either by choice or by circumstances, is ‘unbanked.’ ”